Germany's interior minister voiced optimism Sunday that Europe's refugee and migrant influx had peaked, but said agreements with North African countries may be needed to prevent mass arrivals in the future.
An EU-Turkey deal went into effect yesterday under which Ankara has pledged to take back migrants from EU member Greece, while it plans to launch orderly transports of Syrian asylum seekers to the 28-member bloc.
Germany, which took in more than 1 million refugees and migrants last year, has already seen arrivals drop sharply to an average of 140 a day on its Austrian border, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. "I can say with a great deal of caution that the peak of the refugee crisis is behind us," de Maiziere was quoted as telling the Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper, speaking weeks after Balkan countries closed their borders to the wave of migrants.
He added however that "there are still some questions that we must answer. … This includes the implementation of the negotiated agreement achieved with Turkey, but also a search for solutions in case of possible alternative routes, such as via Libya and Italy," he said.
"If, once more, more people come via this route, we will need to search for similar solutions as we did with Turkey and also enter into negotiations with North African countries," he added. "I could imagine reception centers in North Africa for refugees who are returned from Italy, and in turn a humanitarian admission program with the North African country in question," he said. He cautioned, however, that much "hard work" would lie ahead before any such programs may be agreed.
The majority of migrants come from the Middle East and Africa. The turmoil in the Middle East and the five-year civil war in Syria have led many people to flee the conflicts in an attempt to seek security and shelter in more prosperous and peaceful countries such as those in Europe. However, the EU has been slammed for lacking a collaborative response to the crisis.